How Do You Get A Visa For Saudi Arabia?
Saudi Arabian visas are quite possibly the most complex to obtain when compared to other countries. Even countries like Bhutan, despite its highly-regulated visa process, allows open tourism. Saudi Arabia’s visa guidelines, however, leaves many scratching their heads and asking: How do you get a visa for Saudi Arabia?
Saudi Arabia just isn’t into tourism.
It doesn’t want visitors crowding its streets. It is a very reclusive and religious society with strict laws. A wave of tourism would mar its quiet ways and possibly bring with it heightened crime, foreign influence, and illegal residence. Although the Commission for Tourism is working on a tourist visa solution, they have been doing so since 2013, with no end in sight.
Saudi Arabia takes its time in all matters considered non-priority.
Just remember the rules can change at any given time.
Even if they do change, they may be rescinded the following month. The moral of the story is to always call your local embassy before even considering a visit to Saudi Arabia.
5 Ways To Get A Visa for Saudi Arabia:
1. Personal Visit Visa
Remember Mohammed from Saudi Arabia? You know, from back when you were dorm-mates in college? Well, it’s time to reach out to him! If you have any friends in Saudi Arabia, you can apply for a personal visit visa to see them. The friend cannot be of the opposite sex. The personal visit visa will state which city your friend lives in, so travel to other cities may be restricted.
2. Family Visit Visa
Another way to get a visa for Saudi Arabia is to apply for a family visit visa. If your parents or a sibling live there, you will be permitted to visit for a period of 30 days (usually the same as personal visit visas). Some consulates and embassies require a photocopy of the Saudi ID of your relative living in there. Be sure to have that handy.
3. Religious Visa
Since Saudi Arabia is the hub of Islam, millions of pilgrims visit the kingdom every year for Hajj or Umrah. Religious visas can only be submitted through licensed travel agencies abroad. Ladies visiting Saudi Arabiamay not obtain these types of visa alone. They must be accompanied by a head of household, known as a mahram.
The Hajj visa is granted only once every five years, but the Umrah has no restrictions. Your trip will be tightly regulated by the tourism company, and you will not be permitted excursions outside of the Holy Cities. Finally, the obvious, you must be a Muslim to obtain a religious visa.
4. Business Visa
You may get a visa for Saudi Arabia by entering as an investor or contractor. I know people who use this as a “tourist visa”. These visas usually last one year, but a friend mentioned he obtained one for five years. If you can show adequate funds in an account, you can obtain this visa with no contacts at all.
You just need to prove you will be visiting the kingdom for business reasons, so if you have business contacts in the kingdom, all they have to do is write you an invitation letter.
5. Employment Or Student Visa
You can get a visa for Saudi Arabia if either a school or an employer sponsors you. These types of visas take several weeks to process, and give you unlimited access to the kingdom. If you’ve ever considered a semester abroad and have been dying to visit Saudi Arabia, here’s your chance.
Yes there are plenty of hotels in the kingdom.
But you have to remember these target domestic tourism and business travelers, since Saudi Arabia is the largest economy in the Middle East.
The kingdom is a difficult place to get into, and the authorities have done very little to ease travel restrictions. If you want to get a visa for Saudi Arabia, you’ll need to do a little legwork, especially if you know no one there.
One way is to hit up social media and befriend Saudis.
Saudi Arabia has the highest twitter penetration in the world, so go ahead and create a twitter account. Saudis as a people are very friendly and open to chatting.
Several people who befriended locals and later got a visa to visit these friends in Saudi Arabia. If tweet-friending isn’t your thing,
then you can try several tour organizers.
Tour organizers are a much more expensive option–some packages cost well into the thousands of dollars–and the visas are never guaranteed. Hard as the kingdom is trying to address the tourism issue, I fear it may still be a long while before they come up with a stream-lined tourist visa process.
One last important point:
You will not be able to get a visa for Saudi Arabia if you have an Israeli stamp in your passport.
I won’t get into the politics of it, but the two countries are at odds and the kingdom strictly forbids entry to anyone who has been to Israel before. The way around this is to ditch your old passport, get a new one, and then get a visa for Saudi Arabia with this new passport.
You may also want to visit my post about safety in Saudi Arabia before throwing on that veil and getting on the plane. Do also bring plenty of money, it’s cost of living is similar to the west.
Saudi Arabia is very, very old, and looks the part.
Despite the country’s wealth, it looks like a kingdom pulled out of a vintage Hollywood film.
You’ll meet plenty of great people,
And leave with a very rare story to tell.